A Chinese-American businessman who was held in China for nearly five years after he became involved in a dispute with a competitor has been allowed to return to his Southern California home, his wife said on Tuesday.
Li Hong (李紅) said her husband, Hu Zhicheng (胡志成), arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from China on Monday night.
“We’re grateful, we’re very, very grateful for everybody’s help and we’re really happy to have him back home,” she said of herself and the couple’s two children.
She said in a brief telephone interview on Tuesday night that her husband was asleep and still jet lagged, and did not want to talk about his ordeal or his return home.
Hu was released just ahead of a summit between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), but Li said she did not know if that played any part in her husband’s return.
The Chinese government has in the past released prisoners or resolved cases such as Hu’s to improve relations with the US ahead of major meetings.
Li said she first learned he was coming home in a call on Monday from a relative in China, who told her he was on a plane to the US.
“We have seen the press reports and are pleased that Dr Hu is home with his family,” the US Department of State said in a statement.
An internationally recognized expert in the development of catalytic converters that are used to limit pollution in automobiles, Hu holds a doctorate in engineering and more than 50 patents.
He returned to China in 2004 after years in the US, hoping to get in on the ground floor building cleaner-running automobiles just as smog-choked China’s economy was booming.
Hu became chief scientist and president of a company trying to build top-grade catalytic converters and was honored by Jiangsu Province as one of its leading innovators. Li, meanwhile, started her own business supplying materials to the company that employed her husband. She also holds a doctorate in engineering.
Eventually, a competitor accused Hu of stealing information and providing it to his wife’s company. When Li and the couple’s children returned to the US for a summer visit in 2008, he was nervous enough to warn them not to return to China. Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November that year, he was arrested.
Hu was jailed for 17 months while police investigated the case. He was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing and released, but authorities refused to let him leave China after his business rival filed a lawsuit seeking financial damages.
Li said on Tuesday she did not know if that case has been resolved.
After his release from jail, Hu moved to Shanghai.
Asked on Tuesday if he would consider returning at any point, Li laughed.
“No, I don’t think so. I doubt it,” she said.